Cowboys vs. Cardinals

GAME SET
WHAT: Dallas Cowboys (7-4) at Arizona Cardinals (4-7)
*
WHEN:
Sunday, 3:15 p.m. (CT) WHERE:University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. TELEVISION: Fox Sports (Dick Stockton, John Lynch)*

  • 1-on-1

Nick: Going with one of the obvious ones here. Mike Jenkins returns from his hamstring injury after missing a whole month. He's the most physical of the Cowboys' corners, meaning he has a chance to match up the best with Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, easily the Cardinals' best offensive weapon. Fitzgerald is one of the NFL's most complete players, not just receivers. If Jenkins is clearly back to 100 percent, we'll be able to find out Sunday when he faces Fitzgerald.

Rob: DeMarco Murray has proven capable of carrying the load as a starter, tallying 20-plus carries in five of six games, as well as 47 carries in a four-day span against the Redskins and Dolphins. Arizona has a young star at inside linebacker, Daryl Washington, who makes plays all over the field. Washington and the Cardinals' defense can't allow Murray to dictate the pace of the game the way he did on the Cowboys' winning field-goal drive on Thanksgiving.

Josh: If Kevin Kolb is going to get on the right track in his return from a toe injury, he's going to need time to throw. I'd expect Rob Ryan to bring more blitzes than in recent weeks, but even if he doesn't, the Cowboys need to find a way to get pressure. That's why DeMarcus Ware winning his matchup against left tackle Levi Brown is so important.

  • Don't Forget...

Nick: The Cowboys will be without some beef on the defensive line in Josh Brent, who hasn't practiced with a knee injury. The Cardinals have a big, strong back in Beanie Wells, who has eight touchdowns this year. Arizona likes to pound the ball to Wells in the red zone, and that's where Brent is used more than any other spot on the field. Sean Lissemore will try and help, but the Cowboys could miss Brent. The last time they were without him, LeSean McCoy and the Eagles rushed for more than 240 yards.

Rob: Peterson is so talented, the Cardinals are trying him everywhere on the field. In addition to punt returns and his starting role at right cornerback, the first-round pick has also gotten a couple of snaps in the "Wildcat" formation. He fumbled away a potentially huge gain last week against St. Louis, but the Cowboys must be mindful of him "in all three phases," as Jason Garrett would say.

Josh: As good as Dan Bailey has been for the Cowboys, the Cardinals are not getting the same excellence in their own kicking game, as 11th-year veteran Jay Feeley has missed five of his 11 attempts this year. In a close game, the Cowboys could have a real advantage.

  • Cowboys Win If:

Nick: Run, run, run. Get DeMarco Murray going early and often and the Cowboys should win this week. If they can establish a running game, possibly with both Murray and Felix Jones, to keep the pressure off of Tony Romo, keep the Cardinals from sending a ton of blitzes and to keep Arizona playmakers such as Larry Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells off the field, it has the chance to be a convincing day for the road team.

Rob: The Cardinals, who have allowed 36 sacks this year, can't protect quarterback Kevin Kolb in his first game back from injury. Arizona's offensive line has been criticized all year, and this week they're facing two elite pressure players in DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff. Anthony Spencer was a force on Thanksgiving, too. The Cowboys' defense was much better in the red zone last week, forcing field goals on five trips. That must continue.

Josh: Unless something strange happens, the Cowboys should not have too much of a problem on Sunday. It's hard to guarantee that, though, because the Cardinals have shown they can force some mistakes, too. As long as the Cowboys avoid giving up a special teams or defensive touchdown, I think they'll be comfortable in the fourth quarter.

  • Cardinals Win If:

Nick: The Cardinals will win this game if the Cowboys give them easy or quick scores. I don't think Arizona can consistently move the ball on offense, or stop the Cowboys on defense, in order to win. The last two games Arizona has beaten the Cowboys out there, the Cardinals used a pair of special teams scores in one win and a pair of defensive touchdowns in another. Stay away from those things, and I don't think the Cowboys can lose it straight up.

Rob: Well, three of their four wins have come with a Peterson touchdown return. It's unrealistic to expect another one this week, but it seems like Arizona needs him to flip field position at the very least. Offensively, they're only averaging 19.4 points per game, and the Cowboys are 5-0 when holding teams under 20. Also, the Cowboys' defense has allowed 11 pass plays over 20 yards in the last two games. Big plays happen, but they can't let Larry Fitzgerald or Early Doucet get deep too often.

Josh: Apart from something wild happening in Arizona's favor – a defense or special teams score – I think the Cardinals will have a chance only if their best player is able to absolutely take over the game. If Larry Fitzgerald goes buck wild, the Cowboys could be in trouble. They've defended him with some measure of success over the years, though.

  • Gut Feeling

Nick: This one is starting to look like a trap-game, just because the Cowboys have a legitimate chance to put the clamps down on the Giants, IF the Packers beat New York this weekend and IF the Cowboys can beat the Giants next week. How about, IF the Cowboys handle their business in Arizona, a place that hasn't been too kind recently. Something tells me the Cowboys aren't that consistent to win five straight games and to be this close to clinching a division title. Weird things happen in this game and I expect that to continue Sunday.

Rob: Been going back and forth with this game for about a month. The Cowboys not only have lost their last two games in the desert (2008, 2010), they've suffered some bizarre injuries to boot. But this is a different year, and although I fully expect another close game against an underrated defense, Dallas has some matchups that favor them on the other side.

Josh: Anybody who has already written this game down as a "W" for Dallas is misguided. Arizona has been a tough, strange place for them to play in recent years, and the Cowboys have narrowly avoided scares two weeks in a row. I think it will be easier said than done for the Cowboys to avoid mistakes like turnovers and special teams miscues, and this could prove to be another very tough game. Can Dan Bailey make it three weeks in a row with a game-winning field goal? I would like his odds.

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